The biggest concerns facing Warren General Hospital's board of directors are the fairly recent loss of Medicare Dependent Hospital status on Sept. 30, upcoming changes due to the Affordable Care Act, and a Warren County Board of Appeals property tax decision declaring the hospital's property taxable.
Despite those concerns, there was much to be shared in terms of 2012 successes during the board's annual public meeting on Wednesday.
The recent completion of a Pennsylvania Department of Health Biennial Licensure inspection was one of the best in years, according to WGH CEO John Papalia.
"The team headed by Jodi Bevevino this year, I felt, was one of the best surveys that was ever conducted here," he said. In addition to the outstanding results of a compliance audit and the updating of personnel and service contracts, a continued focus and commitment to patient satisfaction came through the addition of a dedicated Service Excellence Team headed by Holli Summerville.
WGH continued its excellence in standards against the national average. The rates, especially the readmission rate for heart attack patients, in which WGH was nearly 1.5 percent better than the national average, could bring in higher reimbursement rates under the new Affordable Care Act.
A Nov. 28 Healthcare-Associated Infections in Pennsylvania Report of 2011 showed WGH well below the state of average of 2.22 per 1,000 patient days with 1.84.
As concerns about the effect of the Affordable Care Act grow, so does the issue of WGH uncompensated care. "This is kind of a Catch-22 for us," said Papalia. "We know that our reimbursement from Medicaid does not pay as well as Medicare and other insurances, but the other side of that is that uncompensated care continues to go up." WGH provides around $5 million of charity care yearly and the new Act will reduce payments by $7 billion over a ten-year period to Pennsylvania hospitals.
Along with the proposed payment cuts under the new act, the loss of Medicare Dependent Hospital status resulted in a loss of $1.9 million annually. "It is a critical factor in decision-making; how we sustain our community hospital," explained Papalia. Over 200 other hospitals were also affected by this change due to a clause in the Affordable Care Act, he said.
The directors also appealed a county Board of Appeals property tax determination that declared the hospital taxable. Papalia said, "We will continue to appeal to every degree possible." The appeals will cost an estimated $100,000 but could save the hospital a significant amount in the long run.
"I'm more optimistic than I was. I think the fact we haven't gotten a decision yet... I'm trying to interpret that as being good," said Tim Bevevino, president of the board of directors. "I think the law is very favorable to us."
Nearing the end of the search for medical office space appears to be a bright spot for the future. Movements on acquiring office space in the former Quality Markets space are underway through a partnership with Beacon Light. "The location is fantastic," said Papalia. "It gives us the opportunity to do this cost-effectively."